Three kisses, spaced out over a mother's life.
Image by Flickr user crazybananas
By Camille T. Dungy
1. Golden Age
I was closer in age to the baby than to the me I am now. On an island. Summer. There were eight of us. We had nothing to do. I don’t remember sleeping. We had so much to do. We took turns reading The Hobbit to each other. What would it be like to live in some other, almost ours, world?
We ate fresh fish and veggies, drank lots of beer. Some of us kissed. We only took care of each other. We only took care of ourselves.
We swam through the days, argued just a little. Some others kissed.
Nothing of the way we were resembled life now. Nothing about me has changed.
One afternoon, I got up from my towel and started walking. Where are you going? asked a friend.
Toward the horizon, I told her.
That friend would come to my wedding. Would come to my baby shower Should I tell the others you’ll be gone awhile? she asked.
Yes, I told her. Tell the others I’ll be gone awhile.
2. The Ticket
I’d thought this would be a reflective time, but parenting is a now-centered endeavor. I may have to think about tomorrow, but then again, I have to think about assuring tomorrow will happen right now. Yesterday is over. Yesterday things happened that impact us now. This part of my life is running in the present tense.
These are stories I tell like my other stories, urgently, but fuzzy on the details.
I can hardly remember her birth, let alone the first time I kissed her.
Her birth, the first time I had a chance to kiss her, these are stories I tell like my other stories, urgently, but fuzzy on the details. Like the story I tell about the convenience store worker. On his last day in that bleak store, he bought a lottery ticket and won—was it a thousand dollars? Let’s say he only won a hundred. He reinvested his winnings into—was it a hundred tickets? Twenty? That’s not the point, see. The point is that now he’s a millionaire.
3. Last Kiss
Mom called today. Just to hear my voice.
She spent the morning ushering at a funeral. A thousand people: every seat in the sanctuary, chairs in the narthex, the fellowship hall. People lined up from seven in the morning.
A seventeen-year-old—volleyball star, newspaper editor—riding home from youth group.
Her organs, eyes, ligaments, and skin were rushed elsewhere in lifecopters.
One mother—her daughter completed suicide three years before—told the other volunteers she came to acknowledge how they’d helped her. I know I never thanked you. Every time I went to write a card, she said, I couldn’t.
My friend Sebastian was in an accident last week. His heart is bruised. What happens when your heart is bruised?
Caterpillars live in the passionflower bush over my girl’s daycare. When I kissed her goodbye this morning, five butterflies circled my head.
Camille T. Dungy is the author of three books, most recently Smith Blue. She edited Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry and co-edited the From the Fishouse poetry anthology. Her honors include an American Book Award, two Northern California Book Awards, a California Book Award silver medal, a Sustainable Arts Foundation grant, and a fellowship from the NEA. Dungy is a Professor in the English Department at Colorado State University. Her next book of poems, Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan University Press), and a collection of personal essays, Guidebook to Relative Strangers (W.W. Norton), should both be available in 2017.